There is a saying that anything worth having in life is worth fighting for. And so, we work hard. For our dream job (or at least one with good benefits), our first home, that amazing pair of coral peep toe shoes we would absolutely die without. We’re competitive by nature and are usually willing to climb over the competition to get what we want (sometimes literally) and we don’t apologize for being aggressive, determined or even downright pushy. So why aren’t we willing to put the same amount of effort into finding (or maintaining) the relationship we’ve always wanted?
Working hard for the right job, or at least a good job, is something we start doing without even realizing it. We work hard in high school, not just at making the grade but at getting involved, becoming “well-rounded” and at making the right connections. Is there anything a teenage girl works harder at than becoming popular? We perfect the art of making the right connections during our college years, the colleges we were able to get into because of the hard work we put in during high school. The hope is to come out at the end of those four (give or take a few) years with the right connections and the right knowledge to land us the right job. With the right paycheck. We pull all nighters, sometimes for days at a time, surviving on Kahlua-laced coffee and hormones. We spend a small fortune, enough to feed an entire third-world country, on text books and we even gave up a dollar beer night here and there because of an early morning exam the next day.
So, graduation comes, and we move on from our dorm rooms and slums in the “student ghettos” into our very own first apartment. That is usually the size of a closet. Or we move back home with our parents, only to remember why we went away to school in the first place. We live off of Ramen Noodles, which isn’t so bad because if there’s one thing I learned in college, it’s that there are about a hundred different things you can do with Ramen Noodles. Minimum. We pass up those to-die-for coral peep toes (and live to tell about it), all to be able to finally make that down payment on our very first home. For some reason, the Great American Dream is still to own a piece of land, one that has to be mow’d, weeded, watered, landscaped, painted, paved. We dream about filling it with appliances that will eventually break, underneath the roof that will eventually leak. And the best part? There’s no “maintenance guy” to come to our rescue. We have some weird dreams in this country. That being said, a friend of mine recently made an offer on his very first apartment in the city. I can’t afford to rent an apartment in the city, I can barely afford to rent the one I have now. Saving has never been my strong point and the fact that anyone my age has managed to stash away that kind of cash? It makes me feel like I’m about ten years old. Still, this is someone who works hard at two jobs and has clearly made smart decisions with his money. I can’t help but wonder if I would still have a shoe addiction if I had been born as a male.
With all the new technology out there, we sometimes even work hard at starting our own families. We can track our fertility cycles with online programs and purchase ovulation tests at the local convenience store. (The family planning aisle has always struck me as a little ironic. Condoms, pregnancy tests, ovulation calculators. You can buy your condoms, confirm you’re not ovulating and then, when the first two fail, you go back to the same, familiar aisle and pick up that little stick that can be your best friend or the scariest thing you have ever peed on in your life.) You hear people say all the time “we’re trying to get pregnant.” Some women quit drinking, begin taking pre-natal vitamins just in the hopes that it will increase their odds. Staying on her back after intercourse, legs up in the air…we do all sorts of crazy things to make our dreams come true.
There is another saying that nothing we achieve in this life is worth having unless we have someone we love to share it with. So why is it we’re willing to work our asses off for all of those “things” but we expect our love life to just fall in to place? Too many times we look for reasons for love to NOT work instead of fighting to make it happen. I’m no exception to this. I have absolutely blown off otherwise great dates because of their poor fashion sense, odd laugh (I snort, as if I’m one to judge), awkward choice in tattoos, unhealthy interest in show tunes (although this may be a valid reason we wouldn’t work out) and about a hundred other flat-out ridiculous reasons to not give someone a chance. We grow up adoring these Disney movie fairy tales where the woman just lays around sleeping for a million years before Prince Charming lands at her feet and we think that love is just going to knock on our door one day and deliver itself promptly before seven pm. In reality, though, unless the love of our live is the local UPS driver, I’m going to say that scenario is highly unlikely.
When we do finally find someone who passes our checklist of often meaningless criteria, we have these “rules.” Don’t kiss on the first date. Don’t call for three days (if you’re the male. If you’re the female, you aren’t supposed to call him first. I’m not sure how this all works in the homosexual dating world. I’ll have to see if Barnes and Noble carries anything on “What to do when you’re both not supposed to make the first call because you both have vaginas.”) When we first start dating we aren’t supposed to talk about our past relationships or any of the baggage we may have collected along the way. We’re not supposed to complain about our families or our jobs. Basically, we’re supposed to be Mary freaking Poppins twenty-four-seven. How long can anyone pull that off for? My limit is about two hours. I have a brain in my head and it’s filled with opinions, emotions, advice and sometimes, just plain noise. And one of those opinions is that I don’t see the point in “getting to know someone” who is withholding most of who they are. But, as we all know, I don’t have the fairytale relationship, or my first house or even a high-salary job. So maybe my opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. Or many grains of salt, surrounding the rim of a margarita. But I digress.
The thing is, I still believe in working hard for the things that are important to me. Would I like to own a house one day and not have to deal with the lovely drug addicts downstairs banging on my ceiling every time I breathe? Of course. But if I had to rate the things I want the most in my life, someone to share it with would be at the top of that list. There wouldn’t even be a close second. Selling a book, seeing my name on the spine on a shelf at the bookstore? That’s a thought that sends tingles through my body. But my first thought is always the same: who’s going to celebrate with me and truly be happier for me than I am for myself? And there it is. My check list is pretty simple, actually. I want someone who is smart, not book smart per se but someone who can challenge me. I want someone who is romantic but not in the traditional ways. I want someone who will support me even when the odds seem stacked against me and who will stand up for me even when I’m wrong. Most importantly, I want someone who will not hold the bad decisions I have made in the past against me, and who is prepared for me to make some bad decisions in the future, too.
I used to think my list was a lot more complicated. I had ideas on what this person should look like, what types of career would fit, what his background looked like. What’s funny is that some of the best relationships I’ve had have been with people who couldn’t be any further from what I thought I wanted. With age comes wisdom, right? So I’ve learned to not be so close minded and give people a chance. In fact, I recently met someone who breaks one of the biggest “rules” I’ve always had: he’s a smoker. And not an I-smoke-when-I-drink smoker. This has always been a deal breaker for me and the only person who ever got away with it was Jimi. If you’ve been reading since the beginning, than you know that Jimi was the absolute love of my life and I would probably give in and smoke a pack myself if it would bring him back. Like I said, I’ve learned that no one is perfect and there is always going to be something that we wish we could change about someone else. But if we step back from that for a minute and focus on how that person makes us feel, we might be surprised.
This “someone”, let’s call him Bear, has surprised me from the very first time I met him. When I look back on that night, I have to admit it was a little bit like a fairytale. I picked him out from across a room, only to find out from a mutual friend that he had done the same, asking her to put in a good word with me. We played the little “coy” dance for a bit, catching each other’s eyes across the room and smiling, then being cool and looking away. (I sometimes think humans are one of the dumbest animals.) Once we finally spoke, I was done for. He was smart and funny with a great smile. And that first kiss? Like that first sip of pumpkin beer for the season! And so, I kept to the one rule I do believe in: don’t sleep with a guy you’re actually interested in on the first date. (And he has since admitted that if I had, he probably wouldn’t have talked to me again after. I finally made a smart decision!) And, even after his friends teased him endlessly for not being able to “seal the deal”, he texted me later that night. And the next day. And we have now spoken every day since. He has been there for me through recent personal hardships and he makes me smile from somewhere deep inside. Talking to him has easily become the highlight to any day (to be fair, he doesn’t have much to compete with, highlight wise.)
The problem is, Bear doesn’t live even remotely close to me. In fact, there is a necessary plane ride involved. There are so many times I’ve stopped and thought, what the hell am I doing? All of this time, energy, all of this allowing myself to be vulnerable, to be in a position where I could get hurt, and for what? For someone I can’t even see? And then something reminds me of his sarcastic, dry wit and the fact that he doesn’t even pretend to take my crap. In fact, I think challenging me may be his new favorite pastime. I stop and I think, what if this is worth working hard? We will hop on a flight with a days notice, empty our bank accounts to pay for it, just to go on an interview for a job we really want. So why is it crazy to put the same kind of effort and passion into someone who makes us feel passionate? And so, while Bear was spending the weekend with family, I drove fourteen and a half hours round trip just to get to see him for twelve. That days notice? It was an hour. And that bank account? What was I saving for anyway? Crazy? Yup. Worth it? I would do it again in a heartbeat. Of course, there’s always the chance that this “thing” will fizzle out or he’ll turn out to be a serial killer. Or, after reading this post, he will change his phone number and join the Witness Protection Program. Either way, I walk away with the memories of a weekend I can’t begin to describe. It’s a win-win situation. And I will always know that I did everything I could, that I worked hard for something I thought was worthwhile. And I will always have the comfort of knowing that crazy people don’t know that they’re crazy.
And when we are lucky enough to finally be in that relationship we don’t know how we ever lived without? We still need to work to make it last. I still believe in flowers just because it’s Tuesday (and yes, women can buy men flowers, too). I believe in “date night” and in getting dressed up for each other, even if you’ve been living together for years and have peed in front of each other. I believe in slow dancing, even if there isn’t any music. At the end of the day, I believe that “people, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed” (Audrey Hepburn). I’ve always had a good work ethic and I still believe that one day, it will pay off.
“But who am I to tell fate where it’s supposed to go with it Don’t you blink, you might miss it See we got a right to just love it or leave it You find it and keep it Cause it ain’t every day you get the chance to say Oh this is how it starts, lightning strikes the heart It goes off like a gun, brighter than the sun ” ~ Colbie Caillat, Brighter than the Sun